Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Finding New Great Leaders

Taking the distant thoughts up close. That seemed to be what floated to the surface these days. Teaching had been a way to bury unpleasant thoughts. Buried under layers of other people’s business, buried under the inane rules dreamt up by software programmers and self-consumed businessmen. Teaching those rules to other people had been a way to bury the thoughts that he valued. Now they all had time to float to the surface and he looked back at at those years, searching for answers.

Important thoughts in our heads are like little children, they both keep asking “Why?” If you do not answer this “Why?” the little children and thoughts do not go away. Eventually the children may go away for a time but they will come back to ask again. Thoughts are the same, only they can come back late at night after the kids are put to bed.

Answers to hard questions, like those the Pope attempted to tackle, take time to formulate. Answers must be found to these questions, that is why they keep coming back. These are not mathematical or engineering questions, those are so easy to answer by comparison.

If you are assigned to figure out the trajectory of a ballistic missile as it soars over the oceans on the way to annihilate a city of humans, you have many reference books to turn to. The super computer in the next room will assist you. Past tests, models and wind tunnels can get you close to the truth. So easy are the answers for the teams that are tasked with that project.

The question of how to bring lasting peace to the world is perhaps the most difficult question there ever was. Should women become priests? Should we allow a man and woman to decide not to have a baby that has already begun to grow inside the woman? Answers to these questions are tough for leaders. They would be tough for you too, if you really, really thought about them as a leader, no matter what you personally feel the answer should be.

The reason these questions are difficult for leaders is because once you make a decision and the millions, no, billions, hear your answer, they will take actions. Many will abide by your decision, in a somewhat blind deference to leaders they trust. Others will start years of struggle against your decision, organizing anyone who may listen to them, all because they have a different set of facts they believe in.

If you make no important decisions, you are not leading, just holding the office until a real decision maker comes along. A warm body sitting in a seat, approving the budgets and scolding the miscreants is not a leader.

So many questions. No unbiased reference books, no tables, the Lord does not seem to be taking your calls, no super-computer to run calculations on models. Sure the computer may be able to compute how many die if you tell the people of Africa not to use condoms but will it tell you how many great leaders will never be born because of the same decision?

Societies definitely need great leaders. Right now there is such a shortage of real critical thinkers that entire nations are being led by fools or worse, by very smart but very greedy men. I believe the Taoists say that a truly great leader comes along only once in every thousand births.

That one in a thousand potential leader then has to make it to adulthood without being taken down nasty paths. Only one in a thousand of those possible leaders will get a chance to lead. So often that chance to lead will be squandered on an apple orchard or an oil company. Apple orchards and refineries need smart leaders but not the one in a million type of leader for sure.

Therefore the one in a million leader that gets into the position to lead millions is almost as rare as a planet with intelligent life in a galaxy of stars. It rarely happens. When it does, you can be sure a man with a gun will come along and attempt to cut short that leader’s life. This nearly always happens.

No matter what you think of their personal lives or decisions there is no denying that Gandhi and Pope John Paul II and Dr. Martin Luther King were leaders. Millions flowed behind them like rivers, listening and acting upon what they heard. These great leaders impacted the human world like the volcano Krakatoa impacted the earth’s geography. Massive changes in human relations resulted from the decisions they made during the lives they lived.

Let us not forget that all these leaders were shot with guns because they dared to make decisions about important questions. Decisions the rest of the leaders at that time failed to make. The seat warmers, holding the place until next person comes along.

There are great leaders living among us today. We know about Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. It is the great leaders we have not yet identified that need to found. The women and men that will take the time to find all the truths hidden among so many lies, these people need to be found. We need to give them the chance to help us along.

New leaders need to be allowed to put forth the questions, to listen to all the experts and the mothers and fathers and the poor and rich. The one in a million needs to be allowed to prove why they are one in a million. The great leader that is out there must be given the time and position to lead the billions away from the slaughter of the battlefields. This new leader must have the opportunity to show us why she is great. This new leader must also be allowed to make a small mistake or two during the first days of leadership.

The greatest of leaders are never born that way; they are shaped by the events that transpire around them and by other good leaders and by everyone. We all contribute to creation of a great leader by recognizing the qualities that make them great and letting them lead.

Terrible leaders are only created when enough people do not pay enough attention to the decisions made by these tyrants. Societies allow evil leaders to prosper by failing to study their actions and failing to hold them accountable for the very wrong decisions they make. We are all to blame when a bad leader makes many wrong decisions.

If a parent fails to answer a child’s “Why?” maybe only that child will really suffer. When a parent answers a child’s “Why?” with a malicious answer perhaps more people come to grief or harm. When a powerful yet terrible ruler continually arrives at the wrong answers to important questions millions can suffer the consequences. These wrong answers can even cause the unnecessary deaths of thousands or even millions of innocent people. We are all to blame in this case, not just the leader.

We must all search among our young to find the new great leader that is surely out there. This is far more important than searching the stars for a planet containing intelligent life. This is more important than looking for a person with great musical talent or scientific abilities. This new great leader must be located and then permitted to lead a billion or more followers for a few years. This must happen soon so this great leader can have enough time to arrive at excellent answers to the big questions, before they are shot down. Because we all know, in the end, they will be.

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